Archive for January, 2015

NAU Installs Novel Solar Thermal

Rachelle SolarThermix

The Green Fund awarded employee Rachelle Berry $10,352 for her solar hot air heating proposal

 

NAU is excited to announce the installation of its first on-campus solar thermal air panel system. This installation supports the University’s long-standing commitment to decreasing fossil fuel use and creating a culture of sustainability. The six-panel system was installed on the Campus Surplus warehouse on the main campus. The wall-mounted system is 24 feet wide by 8 feet high and can generate more than 40,000 BTUs per hour of fossil-free heat energy. As a side benefit, this single installation reduces CO2e by over 3 tons per year.

Rachelle Berry, Office of Sustainability Americorps Member, worked with NAU’s Green Fund to propose and fund the solar thermal air panel system. “I was very impressed with the initial product demonstrations and believed this solar thermal solution deserved a serious evaluation on campus. It’s really a very simple technology and the economics are great.”

NAU already has a 163 kW solar photovoltaic installation; several wind turbines, and multiple installations of solar hot water heaters across campus. “With Flagstaff’s rank as one of the sunniest cities in the US combined with its substantial heat demand, the high efficiencies and economics of solar thermal air heating are particularly well suited to offset fossil fuel on campus,” said Ellen Vaughan, NAU’s Manager of Sustainability. “There’s a lot of energy efficiency measures and renewable energy options like solar and wind that can help reduce our electrical use, but there’s really not many options for reducing our heating or natural gas use.”

Eric Marcus, Director of the Sustainable Economic Development Initiative (SEDI) of Flagstaff, introduced SolarThermiX, LLC, the manufacturer of the new solar air heaters, to key NAU sustainability personnel. “As an Arizona company, it is rewarding to be working within our own state to promote cost-effective renewable energy technologies and we appreciate the NAU opportunity facilitated through SEDI,” said Michael Corridan, Co-Founder of Phoenix-based SolarThermiX.  “We initially thought that Colorado and New Mexico opportunities would come easier, but the encouragement we have received from SEDI and NAU has opened our eyes to the potential in our own back yard. I hope this pilot installation accelerates consideration by the Governor’s Office of Renewable Energy and the US Department of Energy to further assist adoption of this renewable energy technology, particularly for academic institutions and Native American housing in Northern Arizona.” added Corridan.

“It’s great to participate in developing and completing a project like this on campus” added Rachelle, “I would encourage all members of the NAU community to personally experience the performance of this system at Property Surplus. I also need to thank the Green Fund for funding this project and recommend anyone with a sustainable project idea to attend one of their workshops.”

Property Surplus is open to the public Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

To learn more about the Green Fund visit: http://nau.edu/Green-NAU/NAU-Green-Fund/

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GREEN THUMBS GOING GREEN

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Sustainable gardening teaches responsibility and sustainability on campus

Across the Northern Arizona University campus, students are making a big impact on three important sustainable gardening initiatives—the SSLUGSNAIL, and Shand gardens. While these gardens differ in their individual missions, they are united by a common thread: enabling students to work toward greater sustainability by minimizing their gardens’ dependence on city water and fossil fuel, and minimizing inorganic chemicals in the environment.

SSLUG Garden

The Sustainable Living and Urban Gardening (SSLUG) Garden is the largest gardening effort on campus. Student volunteers work to blend native plants with traditional fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Professors also use the garden as a teaching tool in a broad spectrum of classes by educating students about sustainability, local food production, and the value of community service.

Jan Busco, Northern Arizona University’s Campus Organic Gardener and the caretaker of the SSLUG Garden, says the student volunteers receive more out of the experience than just food.

“A lot of the students work with others in the garden who have different perspectives from themselves, and they learn from each other,” Busco explains. “And then there’s the empowerment that comes from growing your own food.”

The food grown by students in the SSLUG Garden is made available to the NAU community. Extra food is donated to both the Louie’s Cupboard food bank, which serves university students, and the Flagstaff Family Food Center, which provides meals to underserved members of the Flagstaff community.

SNAIL Garden

The members of the Students Nurturing Alternatives in Landscaping (SNAIL) club maintain their very own sustainable garden. The SNAIL Garden is a completely student-run enterprise, where members act cooperatively for the good of the garden. When a plant yields food, it is harvested and divided among the group based on labor.

In addition to the club, students ranging from freshmen to graduate students use the garden as a study tool. Senior biology major and president of SNAIL, Joel Thomas, says that the club is a great way for students to learn about sustainability.

“It’s perfect for students who want to know where their food is coming from and what is going into the production of that produce,” Thomas explains. “Students also get a sense of teamwork and responsibility out of it.”

Shand Garden

The Shand Garden, named for late NAU biology Professor Richard Shand, is a teaching and research-focused garden. Students enrolled in the sustainable botany course through the Biology Department maintain the garden and use it as an active lab. In the class, students learn the theoretical aspects of plant life, and then witness those concepts first-hand.

Students also conduct research projects in the garden. For example, one project involves growing plants in bales of straw instead of soil, which can shed light on the process of growing food in urban environments where space is limited, natural soil is scarce, and potting soil is expensive.

Dr. Peggy Pollak, who teaches the sustainable botany course and cares for the Shand Garden, receives a lot of positive feedback from students who work in the garden.

“Every semester, I ask my students, ‘Why garden?’” Pollak says. “Satisfaction, pride in producing something yourself, getting your hands dirty, and having a lasting, positive impact on NAU. These are all things students love, and that’s what sustainable gardening can provide.”

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NAU Gets New Wind Turbine!

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NAU is excited to announce the installation of its fourth on-campus wind turbine. This installation supports the University’s long-standing commitment to decreasing fossil fuel use and creating a culture of sustainability. The 2.4 kW SkyStream 3.7 turbine was installed next to the Hotel and Restaurant Management building on north campus. The tower is approximately 45 feet high and can produce about as much energy as would be needed to power a home.

The turbine was paid for by NAU’s Green Fund and the department of Finance and Administration. “We’re excited to have yet another visual example of renewable energy on campus that will help off-set our fossil fuel use and will symbolize NAU’s commitment to sustainable leadership” said Jennus Burton, Vice President of Finance and Administration. “This installation helps to demonstrate how sustainability is part of our culture here at NAU and a top priority,” Burton adds.

NAU already has two wind turbines at the “Solar Shack” (NAU’s laboratory and test facility for renewable energy) and one turbine outside the LEED Platinum Applied Research and Development building. The University also has multiple installations of solar hot water heaters and a 163 kW solar photovoltaic installation on south campus.

The wind turbine originated as a Green Fund proposal from students working on the Arizona Wind for Schools project. This project is housed at NAU and partners with K-12 teachers across the state to support wind and other energy education in the classroom. This marks the 17th turbine installed through the project, which has worked directly with more than 5,000 K-12 teachers, parents and students in promoting energy literacy in Arizona. Data from the turbines installed at NAU is available on a website hosted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, for use by students and teachers across the country.

“It’s really great to see a big project like this with actual, measurable environmental benefits materialize” said Caryn Massy, past student Green Fund committee chair who helped approve the proposal. “It’s really a great visual cue to all members of the NAU community that our actions here on campus consume energy and we all have to do our parts to be more sustainable.”

The wind turbine is part of NAU’s continuous efforts to decrease fossil fuel use. NAU’s overall energy use is remaining steady, as the University is managing its energy use exceptionally well through a period of growth in square footage and student population increase. Thanks to aggressive energy efficiency measures and green building practices, NAU has seen an overall reduction in energy use per square foot of 27% since 2002. During that same time the student population has increased by 6,750 and campus square footage has increased 50%.

Wind for Schools is a project of the U.S. Department of Energy’s WindExchange program.

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